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If genetic changes can be reversed or passed on to children, it is still unknown – ScienceDaily

Since legal access to marijuana continues to expand across the United States, more researchers study the effects of its active substance, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in teenagers, adults and pregnant women. New research from Duke Health suggests men in their backing years should also consider how THC can affect their sperm and possibly the children they perceive during periods when they have used the drug. Much like previous research that has shown tobacco smoke, pesticides, flame retardants and even obesity can change sperm, Duke research shows that THC also affects epigenetics, which triggers structural and regulatory changes in the user's sperm. Experiments in rats and a study of 24 men showed that the THC appears to target genes in two major cellular pathways and changes DNA methylation, a process necessary for normal development. Scientists do not yet know if DNA changes triggered by THC are sent to users' children and what effects may have. Their results will be published online on December 1 9th in the journal Epigenetics . "What we have found is that the effects of cannabis use on men and their reproductive health are not completely zero, because there is something about cannabis use that affects the genetic profile of sperm," said Scott Kollins, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Duke and senior authors of the study. "We still do not know what that means, but the fact that more and more young men of childbearing age have legal access to cannabis is something we should think…

Since legal access to marijuana continues to expand across the United States, more researchers study the effects of its active substance, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in teenagers, adults and pregnant women.

New research from Duke Health suggests men in their backing years should also consider how THC can affect their sperm and possibly the children they perceive during periods when they have used the drug.

Much like previous research that has shown tobacco smoke, pesticides, flame retardants and even obesity can change sperm, Duke research shows that THC also affects epigenetics, which triggers structural and regulatory changes in the user’s sperm.

Experiments in rats and a study of 24 men showed that the THC appears to target genes in two major cellular pathways and changes DNA methylation, a process necessary for normal development.

Scientists do not yet know if DNA changes triggered by THC are sent to users’ children and what effects may have. Their results will be published online on December 1

9th in the journal Epigenetics .

“What we have found is that the effects of cannabis use on men and their reproductive health are not completely zero, because there is something about cannabis use that affects the genetic profile of sperm,” said Scott Kollins, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Duke and senior authors of the study.

“We still do not know what that means, but the fact that more and more young men of childbearing age have legal access to cannabis is something we should think of,” says Kollins.

National research has shown a steady decline in the perceived risk of regular use of marijuana. This, coupled with the demand and wide availability of marijuana breeders specifically to provide higher THC content, makes this research particularly relevant, said Kollins.

The study defined common users like those who smoked marijuana at least once a week during the previous six months. Their sperms were compared to those who had not used marijuana for the past six months and no more than 10 times during their lifetime.

The higher the concentration of THC in the men’s urine, the more pronounced the genetic changes in their sperm, the authors found.

THC appeared to suffer from hundreds of different genes in rats and humans, but many of the genes had something in common – they were associated with two of the same major cellular pathways, said senior writer Susan K. Murphy, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Head of Division of Reproductive Sciences in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Duke.

One of the roads is involved in helping bodily bodies to reach their full size; the other includes a large number of genes that regulate growth under development. Both ways can be dysregulated in some cancers.

“What it means to the developing child, we just do not know,” Murphy said. It is unknown if spermatized by the THC may be healthy enough to even fertilize an egg and continue to develop into an embryo.

The study was the starting point of THC epigenetic effects on sperm and limited by the relatively small number of men involved in the trial, Murphy said. The findings in men can also be confused by other factors that affect their health, such as nutrition, sleep, alcohol use and other lifestyle habits.

The Duke team plans to continue its research with larger groups. They intend to study whether changes in sperm are reversed when men stop using marijuana. They also hope that they will test umbilical cord blood in children born to fathers with THC-altered sperm to determine what if any epigenetic changes are transmitted to the child.

“We know there are effects of cannabis use on regulatory mechanisms in sperm DNA, but we do not know if they can be transferred to the next generation,” Murphy says.

“Since there was no major, definitive study, it would be best to assume that these changes are going to be there, says Murphy. “We do not know if they will be permanent. I’d like to say that you stop using cannabis for at least six months before trying to get pregnant.”

In addition to Kollins and Murphy, study writers include Nilda Itchon-Ramos, Zachary Visco, Zhiqing Huang, Carole Grenier, Rose Schrott, Kelly Acharya, Marie-Helene Boudreau, Thomas M. Price, Douglas J. Raburn, David L. Corcoran, Joseph E. Lucas, John T. Mitchell, F Joseph McClernon, Marty Cauley, Brandon J. Hall, and Edward D. Levin.

The research was supported by a contribution from the John Templeton Foundation.

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